by Michelle Murphy
Images of regeneration often feature cappuccino-sipping friends and glass-walled apartments, but two Ashton-under-Lyne photographers shun this ‘aspirational’ approach and have devoted themselves to capturing real communities undergoing change.
Birth of Prophet Muhammad march. Glodwick, 2008
Liz Lock, 29 and Mishka Henner, 32 have spent up to 18 months at a time getting to know the landscapes and people of areas within Rochdale, Oldham and Hattersley.
"We love getting under the skin of a place. It’s a mixture of getting to know people and wandering around. Then there’s the brilliant part of stopping people and making a portrait," said Mishka.
Liz Lock and Mishka Henner
"Other types of photography don’t hold the same appeal for us. You don’t get a chance to really investigate in commercial or press photography where the briefs are often very precise and require a quick turnaround. There’s no chance to get under the surface."
The pair, who met and began collaborating five years ago, believe that it is their own sense of being ‘outsiders’ that gives them their fascination in other people’s lives and their environments.
Mishka, although brought up in Ashton-under-Lyne had lived in Brussels with his architect parents up to the age of eight, and Liz is Canadian.
"We both feel we’re from here, but we’re not and that has a lot to do with how we see others and maybe gives us a different way of looking," said Mishka.
Their current exhibition is Borderland at Gallery Oldham which is funded by the Arts Council and Oldham Beyond.
"We chose the title because Oldham is on so many borders – on the edge of Manchester and on the edge of the Pennines.
Oldham also has many distinct communities and the exhibition explores the interface between them and their landscape," said Mishka.
Spectators, Gay Pride Parade. Oldham, 2007
"On one level Oldham looks like a lot of other towns but we were interested in the people and how they use the landscape. You see so many different people all using the same streets.
"We were in Oldham on the day of Gay Pride, but we didn’t do the obvious thing of photographing the parade, we photographed the audience’s faces, where you could see the cultural and physical change in the town reflected through their emotions and expressions.
"We took hundreds of images that day, but the audience one was the one that jumped out at us as saying more than any other about the town and the people and the change that they were going through."
Mishka conceded that their style of photography isn't always what the funders are looking for.
Adding: "We know that some of our images are not going to go down very well. There’s a difficult meeting point between art and regeneration. In the past, we have had a funder who complained that the people in our pictures weren’t smiling."
Borderland is showing at Gallery Oldham until 10 January 2009.
last updated: 07/11/2008 at 16:42